Friday, May 30, 2008

Loving Evangeline by Linda Howard ****

I have some thoughts today - first about my own personal ratings system. I'm just not consistent, really. Maybe I should switch to 10 stars. Or 100. Right now, 5 stars means I truly loved it and want to read it again and again. 4 stars - I did love it, but not quite as much as the 5 star read.

Then I'll look at some things I rated 4, and think - no, 5. Or 3. Ok - what is 3? Medium? Mediocre? Average? I don't really rate on a "curve" - I don't look at all of them as starting out as a 3 then earning their way up to a 5, or losing points down to a 2. If I liked it, enough, it's a 3. I mean, I have to NOT like it to give it a 2, and really hate it to give it a 1.

That leads me to Loving Evangeline. It's short - it's an "Intimate Moments" by Silhouette - not sure exactly what Intimate Moments means but I'm guessing it's a "category" - a certain # of words, and a certain theme.

I like Linda Howard - I think I've pretty much liked all I've read so far, anyway. I have the first 3 of MacKenzie's books on audio; the first one is abridged, and not quite as satisfying. The second one (Joe) is terrific; the third one (Zane I think) is a little unbelievable, but after 2-3 listens, it grew on me. OK, I really have a hard time thinking a SEAL could justify what happened after he freed the ambassador's daughter from a terrorist kidnapping (yeah, she WANTED to be boffed after being tied up nude for a couple of days, and of course, he ALLOWED her this privilege...). But what the heck, it's fiction, right?

And Mr. Perfect is truly one of my all-time favorites - funny, intriguing, sexy. So - what's not to like about Linda Howard?

Loving Evangeline is ... in a word, intense. Short and intense, and not the least bit funny or heartwarming. Not at all. Her hero Robert is a man who keeps himself tightly leashed so that he doesn't let his inner panther out to - what? kill? rape? plunder? Whatever, he's a manipulative, controlling sonuvabitch. Poor Evangeline doesn't stand a chance - and when you get her backstory - well, jesus, I teared up even though it was told in flashback, having happened a dozen years before the story starts. I mean, she really had a hard time and should have been on major doses anti-depressants. And Robert manipulates her until she's nothing but a spineless blob of jelly - although, ok, she does hang onto a teensy piece of herself, the part that doesn't tell him about her financial troubles. All caused by him, I might add, the sucking bastard.

I didn't exactly hate Robert. I mean, really, I didn't hate him but I did want to bitch slap him a few times.

The storyline is this: Robert, fabulously successful and wealthy business man, learns there is espionage going on in one of his company's holdings. A top employee in his computer software company appears to be selling national secrets. His flunky who discovers the traitor puts a tail on the guy and decides Evangeline, owner of a marina in Alabama where the traitor goes boating, is involved in the take. Robert, big macho man - chest thumping Tarzan - tightly controlled panther of a man's man - decides to go to Alabama and catch the 2 of them and put them away forever.

Ooops. He sees Evie and unfortunately for him, her inner beast calls to his inner beast and makes it sit up and roar. Now he has 2 missions: boff her blind AND catch her selling national secrets, hopefully in that order. Evie takes one look at him and sees the one man who can finally breach the emotional wall she has developed since her husband died the day after their wedding 12 years ago. But she has a secret weapon: she can read him like a book. Not that it keeps her from tumbling into the sack with him, but at least she has an idea what she's getting into.

Robert breaks down Evie so much that if it were up to me, I'd have sued his ass to kingdom come and back twice if I were her. He all but ruins her financially, to see if she'll make another traitorous maneuver to pay off the debts. He never doubts for a moment she's guilty but maybe, sweet guy that he is, he can save her - after she's arrested and tried. It never seems to cross his mind that maybe, uh, she's innocent and he's an asshole. Reading the AAR review wrapped it up quite nicely for me: "such a hurtful betrayal by the man I loved would be awfully hard to get past, when all's said and done." Yeah, what she said.

Howard does sexual tension well, and she does manage to build it up - but really, I kept wishing Evie would hold out a little more because she did know what was going on but gave in anyway. Robert was a mean, manipulative bastard that ending up realizing he loved Evie with a fierceness that by all rights shoulda killed her (literally). Hence the title Loving Evangeline. I mean, we knew that because it's a romance and there's always a HEA.

So what did I rate this when I clicked on the stars at PBS? 4 stars. See what I mean? I didn't LOVE it. I liked it ok. But more than 3 stars. (AAR gave it a B, and I felt the same as that reviewer.) I almost feel like 3 stars is for those that I teetered on not liking - like, the story was ok, the characters didn't make me toooo mad, and the editor wasn't as good at his job as he should have been - that is 3 stars. It almost makes me want to go back over every rating I've done (PBS and Netflix cuz I do the same thing with movies) and start over.

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